Isabella Boylston

ABT's real swan speaks up.

You're more individual—this sounds strange, but I feel like I can see your face more.
Yeah. I feel more free onstage. I feel like I can be myself.

I recently watched a YouTube clip of you and David Hallberg performing Theme and Variations in Russia. How did that go?
It was Moscow, right? I was so nervous because of the raked stage. I had to think about my spacing, which is something I never think about when I dance. I feel like that's something you should figure out in the studio, and then when you get onstage, you just go for it. So I felt that did detract something from my performance in Russia because I kept ending on the front of the stage by the orchestra pit. Everything just rolled downstage [Laughs]. By the time I got to the pas de deux, I could enjoy it. It's such a glorious ballet. Nothing is superficial; it's a perfect representation of the music. Musicality is the most important thing to bring to it, along with technique. But because it's so technically challenging, I feel it's the kind of thing you can work on for years and years. It's such a battle. Before Russia, I rehearsed every day for five weeks. Some people would think that's excessive, but I really wanted to feel prepared. I've only done it twice; I wish I had another date to dance it again soon. I was so beyond ecstatic when I found out I was going to get to do that ballet. I was walking on clouds. I enjoyed every moment of the process so much.

Who taught it to you?
Kevin [McKenzie] and Susan Jaffe. I've been working with Susan a lot and I feel like she's helped me so, so much, both technically and in gaining confidence. She's such an asset to ABT. She's an amazing coach and she has so much to offer and I feel like I can communicate with her really well. I trust her, so that makes it easier. It takes me a little while to trust my coaches. She'll just tell me straight. Actually, when I first started working with her, I kind of felt like, Ouch, that's harsh.

What would she say?
She felt that I was really not pulled up, like I was sitting on my facility, and I totally know what she means. I feel like I've started working a lot more with resistance and turning out more from the top of the leg, which was new to me. It was something I hadn't really analyzed before. I was almost skeptical because I would be so sore; I felt like I couldn't move by the end of a class, but once I got stronger, I felt like it really paid off. She's amazing.

You were working with Georgina Parkinson before she passed away in December of 2009.
Yes. I absolutely adored George. It was really hard when she passed away, especially with everything else that was going on at the time. It was...yeah. I can hear her in my head when I do certain things that she really worked with me on, like [the] pas de trois in [Swan Lake]. What I loved about her was that she really wanted you to dance with your whole body, not just your extremities, and I feel like her relationship with individual dancers transcended just the workplace. If she decided to help you, she took an interest in every aspect of your life. She was like a grandmother. I felt from her that unconditional love that I think she had for a lot of her dancers that she worked with. I think Susan's a good next person for me. She's so real. She doesn't sugarcoat anything, and I appreciate that. I know that if something doesn't look good, she will tell me. Sometimes she'll do an impression of me ,and it might not be very flattering [Smiles], but it is very useful.

You have had a hard year.
Yeah. It's whole breakup was a difficult thing to go through. But these things happen to a lot of people. [Pauses] I have totally moved on from it, and all the experience and wisdom that I gained has been invaluable, and I wouldn't be where I am now without everything that I have gone through, so I'm grateful for every experience that I've had.

What do you mean that you wouldn't be where you are? In what aspect?
In everything. I feel like I've gained an independence I've never had. I've learned a lot about myself, and it's given me even greater focus on my dancing. I just feel like a stronger individual.

Do you live alone?
I do! It's the first time that I've ever lived alone, because I had boarding school and a bunch of girls in Studio Company and then [Millepied]. I have loved getting to furnish my apartment myself. It's very much my home. I have never been better, seriously. It's been a process, but...[Pauses]

It hasn't been that long.
Yeah. Although in a way, it feels like another lifetime.